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Navy Towns Tense As Final Round Of Base Closures Nears

For the second year in a row, the Navy looms as the Pentagon’s biggest target in the annual round of base closings - with thousands of military and civilian jobs at stake from Virginia to Hawaii.

“It is very painful,” Adm. Jeremy Boorda, the chief of naval operations said in an interview Wednesday. “You’re talking about things you really don’t want to close, but you can’t afford to keep.”

Boorda said the recommendation the Pentagon will make next Tuesday won’t name as many bases as in 1993, when the Navy took the brunt of the cuts. But one senior Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that in terms of “greatest dollar value” of savings to be gleaned, the Navy would bear more in this year’s closure round than the other services.

The tension that always precedes base closure announcements is particularly high this year because top military officials say they hope this will be the last of four closure rounds since 1988.

Lobbyists, lawmakers and community activists are working on the assumption that if they can save a base this year, they may save it for good. They also know that once a base gets on the closure list, it takes a monumental effort to take it off.

“With a state like Virginia, we are concerned, but we’re very well organized and we think we have valuable assets for the Department of Defense,” said Rep. Norman Sisisky, D-Va., a senior member of the House National Security Committee.

The Tidewater area, including portions of Sisisky’s district, is home to one of the densest concentrations of military power in the world. It includes the Norfolk Navy Base, home of the Atlantic Fleet, Langley Air Force Base, home of the Air Combat Command, Norfolk Naval Shipyard and Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base, among others.

Such concentrations of facilities are highly regarded by the military. It is the relatively isolated bases that have lost personnel in recent years that are considered ripe for closure.

The Army has submitted a list of 40 sites to be closed or cut back. Gen. Gordon Sullivan, the Army chief of staff, said more facilities will be on the closure list this year than in the 1993 round.